Sat, Mar 28, 2009 - Page 4 News List

Youngest HIV carrier waiting for adoption: charity

UNHAPPY FAMILIES ‘Heibao’s’ father died shortly after he was born, while his mother was jailed, leading to him being taken into care

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

A five-month-old boy with HIV is awaiting adoption, a charity organization said yesterday.

The infant, nicknamed “Heibao,” (黑寶) is the youngest HIV-carrier in Taiwan, said Chiu Shu-mei (邱淑美), executive director of the Home of Mercy Infant Center.

As the center is aware that it will be difficult to get Heibao adopted in Taiwan because of prejudices about AIDS and adoption harbored by many Taiwanese, it has decided to put the infant on a waiting list for adoption by people from abroad, even though it knows that adoption procedures usually take at least two to three years before a baby can travel to a new home overseas, Chiu said.

Despite being HIV-positive, Heibao is presently healthy and developing normally on a daily drug cocktail therapy, Chiu said.

ADDICTS

Chiu said both of Heibao’s parents were drug addicts and the infant did not receive any medical attention either before or after his birth.

The child’s father died shortly after the birth, while his mother was jailed, leading to him being taken in by the center.

Receiving medication before and after birth is critical for such infants, as it can reduce the chances of them becoming HIV-positive to less than 1 percent, said Chiu, a veteran social worker who has been taking care of AIDS patients and handling AIDS-related affairs for more than 10 years.

MEASURES

The Department of Health (DOH) in 2005 implemented a number of measures to stem mother-to-infant HIV transmission during pregnancy.

These measures focus on three major areas — disease screening, medical treatment and health care.

As a result, 95 babies born to HIV-positive mothers have tested free of the disease between 2005 and this year, DOH statistics show.

The department estimates that the risk of mother-to-infant transmission during pregnancy drops from 45 percent to 2 percent if the mother adopts preventive medical care.

HIV is transmitted to infants mainly at conception, during labor or by breast feeding, and preventive therapy during these phrases can prevent infection, DOH officials said.

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